The Basics: Overview
Breastfeeding is very healthy for you and your baby. Experts recommend breastfeeding your baby for at least the first 12 months. Breast milk is the only food or liquid your baby needs for the first 6 months.
Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. You and your baby may need practice – and almost all moms need a little help, especially in the beginning. But it does get easier with time.
To get ready for breastfeeding:
- Talk to your doctor or midwife about breastfeeding.
- Make a plan for after your baby is born.
- Get close to your baby right away.
Once you start to breastfeed:
- Nurse whenever your baby is hungry.
- Ask for help if breastfeeding is difficult.
Use these questions and answers to learn how to breastfeed.
The Basics: Age Guidelines
Does my newborn need any other foods?
No. Until your baby is 6 months old, she only needs your breast milk. In fact, giving babies things like rice cereal, baby food, or formula during the first 6 months can keep them from getting the nutrients they need from breast milk.
Here are some guidelines to help you make sure your baby gets the nutrition she needs.
Birth to age 6 months:
- Feed your baby breast milk only (no formula, juice, cow's milk, solid foods, or water).
- Give your baby any vitamins, minerals, or medicine that your doctor recommends.
Ages 6 months to 12 months:
- Keep breastfeeding your baby.
- Introduce your baby to new foods.
Age 12 months and up:
- Keep adding new foods to your baby's diet.
- Continue to breastfeed as long as it feels right for you and your baby.
The Basics: Health Benefits
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding gives you and your baby time to be close, get to know each other, and bond. Breastfeeding is a healthy choice for both moms and babies.
Benefits for your baby
- Has just the right amount of protein, fat, sugar, and water to help your baby grow
- Helps protect your baby from infection and illness
- Is easier for babies to digest than formula
Benefits for you
- Can save your family thousands of dollars
- May help protect you from ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and heart disease
Learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding.
The Basics: Common Questions
If you are worried about breastfeeding, you aren't alone.
It's normal to have concerns about breastfeeding! The information below may help answer some of your questions.
My baby really doesn't need other food or liquid for the first 6 months?
Right. Your breast milk has exactly the right balance of calories and nutrients. Giving your baby formula or other foods or liquids can cause him to gain weight too fast, which can lead to health problems later.
Also, when your baby gets cereal or formula instead of breast milk, your body gets a signal that your milk isn’t needed and starts to make less milk. The more your baby nurses, the more milk your body makes.
Will my baby be able to sleep through the night without other foods?
Many moms worry that their babies won't be full enough to sleep through the night with only breast milk. Actually, babies under age 6 months aren't supposed to sleep through the night – they need to nurse every few hours, even at night.
Giving your baby only breast milk for the first 6 months can help lower your baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Learn more about keeping your baby safe during sleep.
If I breastfeed, will I be the only one who can feed my baby?
Many moms think they won't get a break if they can't have someone else feed the baby. But you can learn how to pump and store breast milk so your baby can eat when you aren't there.
You can also get a baby sling or other carrier to make going out with your baby easier. With practice, you may be able to feed your baby in the carrier without anyone noticing!
It's also important to know that babies who are breastfed are often healthier than babies who aren't. And that can mean less time spent at home with a sick baby.